Sometimes you can be too close to the source material to give an adaptation a fair shake. Such is the case for the musical “Beetlejuice,” now showing at the Fox Theatre through Oct. 22.
I encountered Tim Burton’s movie “Beetlejuice” at an impressionable age and its mix of comedy, horror and flat-out weirdness led to multiple viewings and a movie I can quote by heart.
The movie focuses on Barbara and Allen (played in the musical by Megan McGinnis and Will Burton respectively) a young, bland couple from New England who die a tragic death and become ghosts trapped in their own home.
Not only do they have to deal with the oddities of being dead, they have to deal with the new owners of their house, Charles (Jesse Sharp) a land developer from New York, his New Age girlfriend Delia (Kate Marilley) and his moody, goth teen daughter Lydia (Isabella Esler).
Desperate to get their house back, Barbara and Allen turn to “bio-exorcist” Beetlejuice (played here by Justin Collette), a sleazy ghost with the most who promises to help, but is an agent of chaos with his own agenda.
Michael Keaton famously originated the character as a motor-mouthed slime ball who sucks up all the oxygen in the room. A little Beetlejuice goes a long way to the point that he’s only in about 15 minutes of the movie.
The musical goes all in and pushes Beetlejuice to the front and center, which is definitely a choice, but struggles greatly to find an even tone. That’s mostly because what they also push to the front and center is Lydia and her emotionally-wrought obsession with her deceased mother.
It’s like trying to shove “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Book of Mormon” into the same musical.
The book is an absolute mess as they basically took the plot of the movie and put it in a blender. Barbara and Allen serve no purpose in the musical and are just there, while Beetlejuice is given an earnest motivation of escaping loneliness that just falls flat.
In spite of the glaring flaws, there is still a lot to enjoy here. Collette is a funny dude and constantly breaks the fourth wall to yell at the audience.
The rest of the cast is solid and the songs are not terrible. The production values are outstanding with some pretty clever special effects and fun callbacks to the movie.
The result is a net positive and if you go in with the right mindset to enjoy a silly time at the theater, then you will definitely leave with a smile on your face. Just do your best not to think too much about it.
“Beetlejuice,” now showing at the Fox Theatre through Oct. 22. For tickets call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.